Kevin, the Paraclete water taxi’s skipper, helps unload my lumber upon arrival at Center Island. The Paraclete is our primary link to Anacortes and the mainland.
CONNECTING WITH THE OUTSIDE WORLD is not as easy for us islanders as for most people. In the midst of a pandemic that’s probably a good thing. But it also poses challenges when it comes time for, say, summer home repairs.
I made such a trip yesterday with a load of lumber and supplies to rebuild the front steps of The Nuthatch cabin. The cabin is more than 20 years old now, and in Center Island’s marine climate that means its time to rebuild outdoor structures such as wooden decks and stairways that are subject to water infiltration, mossy growth and rot.
Living on a remote island makes you an expert list maker, because if you get all the shopping done and something you needed wasn’t on the list, it’s not a quick trip down the street to make up for the lack.
I spent hours at Home Depot and Lowe’s in Burlington and Mount Vernon yesterday, picking out all the lumber, nuts, bolts and screws needed for my project.
Another challenge came in fitting everything in to our car. We have a pickup truck, but we keep it on Lopez Island. For mainland transportation, we rely on our Honda Civic sedan, which we keep parked at Skyline Marina in Anacortes.
You might be surprised how much lumber can be carried in a Civic. The trick: The rear seatback can be folded down, connecting the trunk space with the passenger compartment. I always feel like a Vegas magician when people watch me load 8-foot planks into the trunk of my small car. (Threaded between the front seats, they reach just short of the gearshift. I lash them in place so a quick stop doesn’t pop the gearshift into reverse.)
At Skyline, the Paraclete’s home base, I loaded the supplies into a dock cart. As usual, the boat’s skipper and crew member volunteered to help wheel the supplies down a ramp to the salty 45-foot, 34-passenger motor vessel that has been serving the San Juans’ “outer islands” such as ours for many years. The 35-minute trip across Rosario Strait and into Lopez Sound costs $38 per person, including cargo in most cases.
Of course, no list maker is perfect. Today, as I tore apart our old front steps, I discovered rot in some timbers that I thought would be reusable. So, tomorrow my neighbor John (The Mad Birder) will kindly give me a ride to Hunter Bay public dock on Lopez Island, where Lopez-based Sunset Building Supply will deliver enough lumber to complete the project.
Connections come in many forms and from many directions when you live on a remote island. Like Messrs. Lennon and McCartney, we get by with a little help from our friends. The view from the stern, looking eastward across Rosario Strait toward Burrows and Fidalgo islands, at right, with Bird Rocks at left.